By Debra J. Groom
This coming Saturday and Sunday are the days to get out and visit area maple syrup producers.
It’s the first of two Maple Weekends, in which many producers open their operations so visitors can see how maple syrup is produced. Many also have pancake breakfasts so folks can taste that sweet nectar of the maple tree and have products people can buy.
So far this season, the weather hasn’t been ideal. There were a few days a couple of weeks ago that were warm enough for the sap to run. But then it got cold again.
“We’re scared,” said Kim Enders, who runs Red Schoolhouse Maple in Palermo. “We just boiled for the first time yesterday (Thursday March 13) but we didn’t make any syrup. We haven’t been able to get a string of good days in a row to get sap.”
Maple producers need temperatures during the day in the 40s and lows in the 20s to get a good sap flow. It has just been too darn cold for the sap to flow for a good number of consecutive days.
The temperatures for this week are OK for a four-day stretch in Onondaga County, but cooler in Oswego County, which means it is iffy how much sap will flow this week.
Some producers, like Timothy Whitens who runs Willow Creek Farm of just outside Fulton in the town of Granby, said he did get enough sap to make syrup in late February when there were four days of 40 degree temperatures.
“That first weekend, I made about 75 gallons, mostly medium amber,” Whitens said. “The sap ran again Monday and Tuesday (March 10 and 11) and I was able to make more.”
Feb. 19-23 all had temperatures of 40 or higher during the day and cold nights. But on Feb. 24, it got brutally cold again and shut off the taps.
While the temperatures this year have be too cold, in 2012, it was the opposite problem.
The weather during maple season began fine in January. But by early February, temperatures rose into the 50s. In mid-March, when sap should still be flowing and syrup would normally still be made, temperatures hit near 70.
Cornell University officials said the average temperature for the first 50 days of winter in Central New York is usually 24 degrees. In 2012, it was 32 degrees, the second warmest since 1950.
Anothr problem for maple producers in the Tug Hill area has been the amount of snow. Helen Thomas, executive director of the New York State Maple Producers Association, said with more than 300 inches of snow in some places, producers were having a difficult time getting to their lines and taps.
Enders said she hopes to have enough maple products to sell and offer for tasting during Maple Weekend. Red Schoolhouse Maple is open both days of the weekends, March 22 and 23 and March 29 and 30, and offers pancake breakfast, tours of the sugarbush and boiling area and tastings.
Whitens is open only Sunday, March 23 and March 30, and offers tours.
Maple Weekend hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Go to http://www.nysmaple.com/mapleweekend/ or www.mapleweekend.com for more information.